TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Preliminary DNA tests found no evidence of semen on a 7-year-old New Jersey girl who police said was gang-raped after her stepsister sold her for sex.
The lack of DNA evidence will not cripple the state’s case against two men and three teenagers who have been charged with rape, Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Downing wrote in a court document obtained by The Associated Press. The stepsister, who is 15, also is charged as a juvenile with promoting prostitution, aggravated sexual assault and other counts.
“The majority of the state’s sexual assault cases are prosecuted without the benefit of (DNA) evidence,” Downing wrote. Prosecutors have said they have physical evidence, such as injuries to the girl that are consistent with sexual assault.
Downing also said the state will not seek to try the three teenage boys and the stepsister as adults. The prosecution also consented to a judge reducing bail for the two adults — 19-year-old Tiemare Lewis and 20-year-old Gregory Leary — to $75,000 each. Bail had been $300,000 for Lewis, $500,000 for Leary.
Lewis’ lawyer, Jason Hageman, said a judge approved his client’s bail reduction and granted him a probable cause hearing, scheduled for Aug. 10.
“My client is innocent. And he looks forward to the day he’s exonerated,” Hageman said. “Sometimes justice takes a long time but it’s worth the wait.”
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Leary’s lawyer, Robin Lord, has not agreed to the $75,000 offer for her client and is requesting an even lower amount, because Leary’s family cannot afford it.
The 7-year-old was pressured to give a story that is inconsistent with what happened at a March 30 party, Lord said, and should be grounds for a dismissal.
“The case is hardly as solid as the police originally leaked,” Lord said. Without the DNA evidence, “you have an ethical obligation as a prosecuting authority to seek justice, not just a conviction.”
Police say the stepsister sold the 7-year-old child to have sex with as many as seven men and boys at the party. The stepsister is said to have had sex with Leary, and he told police the 15-year-old said she was 18.
Shemika Leary, Gregory Leary’s sister, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that her family would sue the state if her brother is acquitted, especially considering there is no DNA evidence implicating him.
“It went nationwide that he raped a 7-year-old girl,” Leary’s sister said. “They said he did it. So they took the words ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and just threw it in the trash.”
In April, the 7-year-old’s stepfather defended Leary, Lewis and a 17-year-old boy accused in the case, claiming the three tried to get the girl out of the apartment. He said they were kept from helping by others who held them at gunpoint.
The Associated Press does not identify sex crime victims and is not naming the stepfather so as not to identify the 7-year-old.
The prosecution has offered plea deals to the juveniles in exchange for their testimony against the adults. Downing said she wants to resolve the juvenile cases before offering plea deals to the adults.